Urban Journalism Institute

Urban resilience
in action

Urban resilience as part of disaster risk reduction strategies is key to sustainable urban development. Building urban resilience is closely linked to climate change as well. 

The importance of disaster risk reduction, and particularly local resilience, has been recognised by several global documents and agreements, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda. 

The most relevant one is the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. It identifies opportunities to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by reducing disaster risks, such as reducing exposure and vulnerability of the poor to disasters, and building resilient infrastructure. This year marks the conclusion of the mid-term review of the Sendai Framework’s implementation. A High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly to adopt a concise and action-oriented political declaration to renew commitments and accelerate the Sendai’s framework implementation will take place in New York on 18 and 19 May 2023. 

Hanoi, Vietnam © Frida Aguilar Estrada
Kampung Biru Arema, Indonesia © Silas Baisch

Why is urban resilience important in the current global context? 

On 15 November 2022, the world population reached eight billion people. With the overall population increase, whereby the urban population is growing particularly fast, cities accumulate the main challenges and opportunities for both the planet and society, for instance, climate change. While governments are negotiating and looking for solutions to this challenge, many cities are already facing the impacts of climate change. Resilient cities can better handle disasters, protect human lives, prepare for future shocks, and promote sustainable well-being. Urban resilience not only refers to physical, economic, and social resilience. It encompasses a new governance model that can mitigate risks and respond to evolving challenges. Building urban resilience is incredibly complex, requiring coordination between many actors and holistically looking at the city and its problems. 

The need for greater resilience became even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, when cities and mayors were the first to confront the health crisis. Local and regional governments were at the forefront of supporting their citizens and were able to save livelihoods while sustaining economic development. They reprioritised local expenditure to protect jobs, support small businesses, and promote alternative forms of production and consumption based on the social and sharing economy. 

At the same time, big cities, especially capitals, led response efforts and set examples for others. Many cities in Asia succeeded in containing the spread of the pandemic at the early stages, and later on in disseminating information about prevention measures and launching vaccination campaigns. For example, Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, received international recognition at an early stage for the measures introduced to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. While many cities struggled with the pandemic’s consequences, Milan used this crisis as an opportunity to change the city and improve its resilience by creating better public spaces.

With climate change impacts increasing year after year, many cities are working on mitigation strategies. One of the strategies includes becoming more resilient through building better infrastructure, applying innovative technologies, turning to nature-based solutions, and investing in the education of citizens. To help cities become more resilient, the Rockefeller Foundation funded the 100 Resilience Cities program from 2013 to 2019. It supported 100 local governments to build their resilience, and established a new position – Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) – to formally coordinate and lead the efforts to make cities more resilient and sustainable. After the programme was closed, two new organisations took over its legacy, Resilient Cities Catalyst (RCC) and the Global Resilient Cities Network (GRCN).

Making Cities Resilient 2030 (MCR2030), building on the ten-year advocacy success of the Making Cities Resilient Campaign, is a cross-stakeholder initiative led by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. It aims to help cities develop resilience strategies through peer-to-peer learning and knowledge exchange. More than 1,500 cities are part of the MCR2030.

Urban resilience was one of the important topics within the multilateral discourse in 2022. For example, the G7, G20, Commonwealth and Belt-Road Initiative have included unprecedented references to sustainable cities, urbanisation, and multilevel action through their Ministerial or Heads of States Communiques. In addition, during the COP27 held in 2022 in Egypt, the COP27 Presidency launched the Sustainable Urban Resilience for the Next Generation (SURGe) Initiative to enhance and accelerate local and urban climate action through multi-level governance, engagement, and delivery through five integrated tracks, contributing to achieving the Paris Climate Goals and the SDGs.

Keep learning 

Resilience Learning Modules for the localization of the Sendai Framework have been developed by UCLG, in partnership with UNDRR and UN-Habitat, to support local and regional governments in the development of resilience building actions and strategies. 

They are available at

Projects to follow

  • Greater Manchester continues its journey to becoming carbon neutral by 2038. Its Green Homes Grant and Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund is supporting thousands to decarbonise their homes by retrofitting them, making them better insulated, less draughty, and more sustainably heated. In 2023, the city aims to have more than 4,000 homes retrofitted. 
  • On 5 August 2022, the mayor of Makati City, Philippines, officially declared a climate emergency and acknowledged the need for more concrete, multi-level, and multistakeholder climate action. Makati City will accelerate its climate initiatives, for example, by implementing policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and focus on sustainable mobility. 
  • Monterrey, the second largest metropolitan area in Mexico, will start developing a resilience strategy in 2023. 
  • Since 2022, the City of Kigali, Rwanda, will work towards food resilience by reducing food waste. Kigali is committed to ensure that food scraps be avoided at all levels, from harvest to market distribution and on to the consumer level, including finding solutions for food lost during storage, preparation, and after that.
Manchester, UK
© Joe Cleary